Historically, talking earnings was about as taboo as bringing up politics at the Thanksgiving table. Things are changing as younger generations take over the workforce, however, and if you’re into equity, this could be a really good trend: Some believe that such conversation can help close wage gaps. But until this trend becomes a bona fide social norm, it will still be necessary to take a look at how wage gaps play out among larger populations and use the information to start conversations about where, when, and how we need to work to close those gaps.
The charts below offer a look at median earnings overall and then compare the earnings of the group of workers that makes the most: People who have been employed full-time, year-round for the past 12 months. While we can see that wages are higher for this group overall, there is a vast difference in how much men and women in this group make. Locally, men in this category have median earnings of $54,982, whereas women in the category have median earnings of $45,527. That translates to women in the Atlanta MSA making 83 cents for every dollar a man makes. As the bottom chart shows, this is actually a couple cents better than the state and nation.
Looking at the pay gap by occupational categories
So in what occupations should women maintain extra vigilance by doing a little extra research on average salaries and negotiating the the highest possible amount up front? Sadly, the answer is pretty much all of them.
The chart below shows women’s earnings as a percent of men’s, and we can see that almost none of them get close to 100 percent. One silver lining? In a number of occupational categories, including computer, engineering and science occupations and healthcare support occupations, the Atlanta MSA bests both the nation and the state – that is, our region’s ratio of women’s wages to men’s wages are higher than the state or nation in those sectors. But it’s cold comfort, given that women’s wages are still lower than men’s in those categories. The only occupational category in which we see women making more than men is farming, fishing and forestry – but, even here, there are two caveats: First, the sector employs relatively few women, and second, it represents very few jobs in the Atlanta MSA.
Yes, the data, which is ACS rolling averages between 2015 and 2019, is dated given the extreme upheaval in the past year. It is important to note that present trends suggest strongly that the gap in earnings between men and women is likely to organically widen, not narrow. As we have said before on 33N, the pandemic has led to the bad trend becoming worse. A very large share – if not all – of the recent slowing job growth in the American economy is accounted for by elimination of jobs held by women, which is a trend much driven by and feeding into women having to leave the workforce altogether to fill childcare and/or caregiving roles. Since January 2020 the drop in female labor force participation has been about 75% greater than the drop seen for males.